Sunday, August 19, 2007

2007 Preseason Preview: Colorado Buffaloes

In preparation for the 2007 College Football season, Drinking the Forty will look at every team in the Big XII, sizing up the conference for the 2007 season.

After enduring recruiting scandals and disgrace throughout the program, Colorado looked to turn over a new leaf in 2006 with the hiring of Dan Hawkins from Boise State. Heading into the season, Colorado had high hopes for his arrival, looking to become relevant in the Big XII. Those hopes quickly came crashing down with a 19-10 loss in the season opener against Division II Montana State, in Boulder. The opening loss quickly turned in to an 0-6 start to the season. They managed to avoid a winless season with a surprise win versus Texas Tech and Iowa State, but the 2-10 season was looked upon as a great disappointment.

Faced with an even larger rebuilding task than originally believed, Hawkins began to restock the program with young talent and junior college transfers, for short term solutions. Hawkins armed with a tradition rich program and a reputation for building a program was able to sign 28 recruits on his way to the 32nd ranked class by Rivals. Colorado returns most of their defense from a season ago, losing linebacker Thaddeus Washington and a couple players in the secondary. Probably the biggest loss on the entire team was place kicker Mason Crosby.

While most of the offense has returned, there are many new faces, as more talented players have moved to the top of the depth charts. The Buffaloes will start the season with redshirt Freshman Cody Hawkins starting under center. Unproven, he won the job over Junior College transfer Nick Nelson, with his consistency during the preseason. It will make Hawkins' job even more difficult with the lack of talent at wide receiver. Colorado will use as many as ten different players to find any kind of production out of the wide receiver position. Patrick Williams and Cody Crawford are the only wide receivers with any experience or prior production. Also look for contribution out of last year's starting quarterback Bernard Jackson, who has shifted over to Wide Receiver. Hugh Charles is the only recognizable face off this offense. The senior speed back returns after running for 779 yards a year ago. He will split time with senior power back Byron Ellis. The offensive line will also be young, returning two senior tackles, and starting a junior, sophomore, and redshirt freshman at center and the two guard positions.

Colorado will have to rely on its defense if it hopes to have any success this season. Up the middle Colorado returns both of their defensive tackles, in juniors George Hypolite and Brandon Nicholas. They will be relied on to anchor an inconsistent run defense from a year ago. They will be joined on the line with three new ends, in senior Alonzo Barrett, junior Maurice Lucas, and redshirt freshman Marquez Herrod. Colorado returns two of their three linebackers, including standout senior Jordon Dizon (137 tackles, 4 sacks '06). Junior RJ Brown will enter into the lineup, joined by returning outside linebacker, junior Brad Jones (72 tackles '07). The secondary was torched all season by opposing offenses, but the Buffs return three starters off that young unit, in senior corner Terrence Wheatley (5 int '07), junior safety Ryan Walters and senior safety Lionell Harris. They also added junior college transfer, safety Daniel Dykes, who should start along with junior corner Benjamin Burney.

While Colorado should be much improved from the team that took the field in 2006, Colorado still will struggle immensely on offense and doesn't have the talent on defense to compensate. With Colorado State, Arizona State, #19 Florida State, and #8 Oklahoma in the first five weeks, Colorado won't be able to recover from what looks to be a 1-4 start. They should however be able to play better down the stretch as the offense begins to improve in the Hawkins system and benefiting from playing in the Big XII North. However, anything better than 4-8 this season would be a reach in what looks to be a long road ahead for Dan Hawkins and the Colorado Buffaloes.

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